As a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) was established in 1994 by the California Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). Now a recognized international leader in oil spill response featuring more than 25 members of world-class aquaria, universities, scientific organizations, and rehabilitation groups, OWCN is currently administered by the U.C. Davis Wildlife Health Center in the School of Veterinary Medicine.  OWCN focuses on four core areas: Readiness, Response, Research, and Reaching Out, which provide expedient and effective solutions to give the best care possible for oil-affected wildlife. Currently, OWCN has responded to more than 75 oil spills throughout California and has cared for nearly 8,000 oiled birds and mammals. They’ve now broadened their focus to include all aspects of oiled wildlife response.

OWCN’s facilities include the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center (Santa Cruz), the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center (Fairfield), and the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center (San Pedro) and are maintained in a constant state of readiness –  wildlife caregivers are available 24/7, 365 days a year. The Santa Cruz facility treats sea otters and marine birds, while the San Francisco and Los Angeles facilities accommodate up to 1,000 birds and are managed by the International Bird Rescue Research Center. The best way to help rehab oiled animals is by becoming a “pre-trained” volunteer at one of the 19 member organizations. Here you will gain valuable experience and skills necessary to work a spill. If you prefer, become a “convergent” volunteer or unpaid employee with the OSPR where you’ll attend regular trainings. Then the OSPR sends you to work with the OWCN or other organizations involved with an oil spill. Volunteers must be 18 years old.

An HBO documentary just aired April 20th entitled “Saving Pelican 895” which tracks the rehab of one rescued Brown Pelican from the Gulf Oil Spill. Be sure to follow OWCN’s blog and check your local listings for air times of the HBO Documentary. You will gain invaluable information about what it takes to rehab oiled wildlife. Baby boomers frustrated over the way events transpired in the Gulf Oil Spill will want to fly to this website which provides opportunities to get involved. We encourage everyone to help our oiled-feathered friends spread their wings once again!

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